Sebastian Vettel could have had a whole different career had he chosen to be a McLaren-Mercedes driver in 2008 when negotiations took place between the two sides, but an agreement did not materialize according to Norbert Haug, the former Mercedes F1 manager.
Vettel ultimately opted to enter the Red Bull – Toro Rosso industry after his period with BMW Sauber ended. He had brilliantly replaced Robert Kubica in one race in 2007 and that had sparked interest from Red Bull and Mercedes alike. Toro Rosso immediately signed him on to replace Scott Speed during the season. But Haug didn't give up.
"I negotiated with Sebastian when he was Toro Rosso," says the German, before McLaren was forced to choose Heikki Kovalainen as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate in 2008.
"Who knows how the history of Formula 1 would have played out if we had come to an agreement back then. But in F1 everyone negotiates with everyone at some point and those who don't recognize it just keep things a secret. But it's still true. "
Vettel still made the right choice since he won 4 titles with Red Bull while McLaren began his descent into hell after Lewis Hamilton's title in 2008. The German then chose to take up the Ferrari challenge, in replacing Fernando Alonso. But Vettel and Ferrari ended up signing the divorce papers while in lockdown.
"What happened? Someone angry will answer: everything! But of course, it's never the truth. Just as Mercedes was able to create the right conditions for Lewis to go on to win and win, Ferrari failed to do the same for Seb. "
“The last Ferrari title – the oldest of us will remember – was in 2007. What if we hadn't been stupid enough back then not to pit Lewis Hamilton in time at the Grand Prix from China, Ferrari wouldn't have had it. So before 2007 there were all five titles for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari in a row from 2000 to 2004, and before that 21 years before, Jody Scheckter in 1979. "
“It is not presumptuous to say that Ferrari outside of the Schumacher era and after the Niki Lauda era in the 1970s didn't do much in F1. I love and appreciate Ferrari, but no idolatry cannot disassemble these facts. "
And the other reality is that Vettel is flyless for now in 2021.
"Sebastian absolutely has to show that he has his teammate, the fast and talented Charles Leclerc, under control or that he is at least his equal. Those who are regularly left behind by their teammates are the second choice in Formula 1, this which is by no means my opinion, but the law of the sport. "